Matt Bennett, Dennis King
Burke turns to trio of old faces in push for promotion
With Paul Burke looking to guide Wootton Bassett Town back into the Hellenic Premier at the third time of asking, he has turned to a number of old faces to hopefully inspire his team to a top three finish.
That's not to say the core of last year's side has been unceremoniously dumped after a disappointing season in favour of a whole new squad. Captain Steve Yeardley and Matty Bennett both resisted offers from teams at a higher level to remain at Rylands Way whilst John Magani, fresh from university, is expected to play a more prominent role with a switch to the left wing on the cards.
The solid and dependable group of Chris Mills, Rich Gee, Paul Crabtree, Andy White, Stu Hemsley, Mark King, Scott Large and Andy Hallett are also back.
The one major loss from last season has been of 'keeper James Domm who has left for Premier side Carterton yet Burke moved swiftly, brining in ex-Hungerford stopper Sean Purcell, who becomes the umpteenth goalkeeper Bassett have had in the previous six years, to fill the void.
Coming back to Rylands Way are lively midfielder Lee More, who has spent the previous two seasons with Fairford Town; cultured left back Paul Patel who last played in blue and yellow two seasons ago and who will add balance to the side.
Also returning is Lee Stoddart, a player who was voted Hellenic Premier League player of the year in the final season of his first spell at the club; he links up again with Jeremy Newton, the two combining for much success when playing together previously. Stoddart is difficult to defend against and should provide the goals needed to ensure Bassett are at the right end of the table come the most important part of the season.
Other recruits include ex-Witney United midfielder Richie Saunders, Cricklade defender Adam Whitefielder, former Fairford midfield man Neil Matthews, Martin Thompson (Cirencester United), Graeme Little (Hungerford Town) and Dennis King (Highworth Town).
The vast number of new faces means competition for places will be extremely high, which is hoped will spur the squad on as places in the side will not be guaranteed.
Despite losing three out of four preseason contests and seeing the potentially lucrative match with a Swindon Town XI fall foul to the weather, Burke was satisfied with his team's preparations.
In each of the first three contests – all against step five competition – Bassett conceded three, going down 3-0 to Devizes Town and Melksham Town whilst losing 3-1 to Shrivenham with Steve Yeardley netting.
In the final warm up, Wiltshire League side Wroughton were dispatched of 4-0 with an own goal and strikes from John Magani, Matty Bennett and Adam Whitefield proving the difference.
That win should provide momentum going into an extremely tough first month of the season, which started at Headington Amateurs on Saturday with a 2-0 win with goals from Bennett 16 minutes in and Dennis King five minutes from time. Tytherington Rocks, Trowbridge Town and Winterbourne United – three of the league's strongest sides in front of goal - all come to Rylands Way in the opening weeks of the campaign and Bassett have to make the always tough trip to bogey side Easington Sports too.
Alongside these contests is the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie away to local rivals Highworth Town on Sunday 19th August. John Fisher's side have spent big over the summer too, making this encounter seem even tougher.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38
Matt Bennett, Dennis King